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Letters From The Amazon - Part Six

PART SIX: THE JEWELS OF AMAZONIA

Hola mi amigos! (Hello my friends)

This part of my adventures here in the Amazon are all about the discovering the cool medicinal plants out here and getting up close and personal to the beasts that roam the jungles of this vast country, well....not exactly roam, some sit in trees and slither around but I've discovered a few new ones to tick off in my 'I Spy Book' . :)

Not far from the reserve there is a well known Amazon Animal Rehabilatation Centre called 'AmaZOOnico' and is a 1,500 hectare reserve on the Rio Arajuno - a narrow tributary branching off the Napo River which we decided to embark on an adventure up river to check out. It cares for displaced or homeless animals who´s habitats have been destroyed or ones that have been sold for quick cash by illegal traffickers. We managed to hitchike on two vehicles from the road outside the Jatun Sacha reserve to the Porte de Ahuano where we haggled one of the boat men (not with my spanish but by a very gifted American volunteer) and convinced him for a good price to take us in a canoe half an hour down the Napo River and into the Rio Arajuno deeper into the swamps and darker jungles of the Amazon - trusting our boat man knew where he was going and wasn't going to run out of fuel leaving us stranded!

22445_2293..756390_n_1_.jpg22445_2293..763374_n_1_.jpgCruising deeper into the tanning tributuries of the Amazon....

Cruising deeper into the tanning tributuries of the Amazon....

I was told the entire Amazonia region which spreads right across South America, is the central network of more than over a thousand rivers and tributuries which contains about 20% of the planet's fresh water resource - mmm and I was cruising right along on it but precious water.
It was amazing just seeing nothing but jungle and river straight ahead..... It was also really interesting to see the riverside life of the Amazon, other boats motoring past us saluting us with a friendly wave and call, people fishing, bathing and washing their clothes - the weather is really tempramental, when we boarded the canoe it was blazing sunshine and then when we passed under a cloud it was a rain storm and then blazing sunshine again! was really cool to experience though.

The animal centre lay on a sort of island only accessible by boat and run by a Swiss couple who had a soft spot for Amazonian animals. At the beginning of the centre we had a ´briefing´about the squirrel monkeys that roam around - locking everything we had away and given instructions to how to get them off if they decide to jump on you haha! they will make off with a thing or two y´know those crazy little critters. They took us around the centre (fortunetely speaking english) and was amazing to have the opportunity to get really close to these exotic animals - the Toucans are my favourite. Some of the monkey species like the spider monkey and wooley and howler monkey are close to extinction and some of them are just too tame to be released back into the forest (we were even told about how one of the Jaguars escaped and actually came back!) its a jungle out there........but the Toucans were White Throated species and the red scarlet macaws and Amazonia parrots make a horrendous amount of noise and scream ´Hola!´ to you which is really funny. The couple actually found a baby anaconda on the road having bee injured and took it in to their centre, it was kept in a tank and are pretty much gigantic water snakes so not to sure what they're going to do when it grows up! they can each up to nine metres long!. Turtles were about too aswell as mini Jaguars called Ocelots which were dead cute and came right up to us. Its quite funny with some of them as the Álpha Male´ Collared Pig came running over to our guide and let her open its mouth to show us his teeth like he wanted us to see.....we also had a really sweet little fluffy bird called a 'Trumpa' which would run after us and stand in the middle of us for attention.

Check them out....

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After giving a donation to the reserve for all their hard work, we had to find our boat driver who thankfully had waited for us being in a really remote part of the jungle - we hopped back on the boat again and back up the Napo. Paying the driver $30 at the port, we then decided to walk towards the main road ahead of the bus on the dirt track and through the farm land which we had hitchiked down previously - knowing our luck, the bus never came by and we ended up walking nearly the entire way home, fighting our way through the dusty sand that cars going back in the other direction would leave, rubber neckin´us gringos like they´d never seen a white person here before! Eventually we made it back on to the main road and THEN we got picked up by the bus just to ride 2 minutes down the road back to the reserve where there was no electricity and in great need for it to rain so we could have water (every place in the Amazon relies heavily on the rainfall for their water supply). Thankfully we had a mama of a thunderstorm and sat on the steps of the cabañas watching the lightning storms (you can´t hear A THING when it rains as its so intense when it falls) but the forest gets watered thats for sure - so its great when it rains!

Big Amazon Leaves - great substitutes for umbrellas!

Big Amazon Leaves - great substitutes for umbrellas!


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Well I'm a sucker for animals and being in the richest biodiverse place on the planet, I took the bus into Tena later in the week and went to visit the 'La Isla Parque Amazonico' across the river on island paying a girl a whopping $2 on the bridge to enter.....

The centre was busy with construction going on for new animal housing as I walked around checking out the garden of precious medicinal plants that embed the natural pharmacy of the rainforest. All the cures for pretty much any body dysfunctions are out here.....here's some secrets

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'Ayahuasca' - a bejuco made from it's vines is the main ingredient for a potion prepared by Shaman's to go into mental trances to see the past, present and future and to detect illnesses in bodies, practiced in sacred ceremonies.

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'Cruz Caspi' - natural contreceptive, also to treat menstrual cramps and kidney and stomach problems

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'Chonta' - they call this palm tree the 'sun's fiancee' with it's red fruit producing protein and Vitamin A

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'Chugriyuyo' - it's leaves have penicilin and is used to relieve throat pain!

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'Una de Gato' - Used to fight diseases like asma, ulcers and diabetes

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'Cola de Pavo Real' - you rub these leaves on yourself to help with low energy and stomach aches, they turn to brown to show the energy is out!

'Papa Culebrina' - used as an antidote for snake bite

'Maria Panga' - Excellent to treat skin tumours

'Sarzaparrilla' - cause anti inflammatory effects and also protects the liver...

'Guayusa' - works well as a natural energiser and also prevent decay from its flourine

and that's only some of them out here..... who needs a doctor!

Then I saw a monkey bounding towards me....it was a cute little squirrel monkey!

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and some other characters too....

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Any zoologists dream!

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 13:16 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest rivers wildlife plants south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Nine

PART NINE: BACK TO SCHOOL AND DEEP LESSONS IN THE RAINFOREST

Ok I´m sick with a cold but no worries I have the worlds medicine's a stones throw away! so just drunk some tea of boiled bark off a Cat Claw tree for my cold and eaten in a restaurant in Tena with a sloth living in the roof how cute! but here´s some more stuff thats been going on with more of my adventures in the Amazon....

Working at the 'Centro Conservacion Plantas Amazonica', a lady came into the garden inquiring about the 'Cruz Caspi' tree we have - its a natural contreceptive ´no more babies tree´ where women could drink when they don´t want children anymore. She seemed quite serious about the no more children arguement which was kind of nice having her kids standing next to her when she said it! This gave Sergio, the head ranger the idea of finding 100 stems of the 'Cruz Caspi' tree to pluck out and sell them for $1 at the centre, thats like 50p for this medicine that stops you having babies - think we need the same idea in Britain mmmmm.

Speaking of children (niños) the only time I have actually felt like I was putting something into the rainforest was visiting a local school 'Chicicu Rami´where we took some 'Íshpingo' plants for them to make their own garden. It kind of involved us going into the classroom with them all staring at us and having to introduce myself as

´Soy (I am)....Sal.....en la sopa´ (in the soup) where they all just abrupted with sniggers and giggles. Sigh.

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Then the other volunteers did this presentation where I kind of recognised a few of the words about how they wanted the children to make the garden and allocated them tasks including macheting the grass down, watching 8/9 years old with machetes are quite a sight - they are really good!. Then they planted the trees in their new cleared garden which was sweet with the exisiting rainforest towering in the background.....and then play time! The kids took a particular shine to me and the amount of them trying to climb my legs like a tree were causing my trousers to fall down! I attempted to play from what I gathered was cat and mouse but obviously there was going to be a few accidents when they insist on doing it on the concrete! I love the kids though, it was particularly fun lifting them up with their basketball so they could reach the hoop - was so cute. They work really hard, really good kids.

Back at the reserve, I walked through the jungle to the bathroom when a found a small bird was caught flying around the place trying to get out, so I was entertained with a broom trying to usher it out with not much success while it was squaking at the top of its voice. Also in the reserve, I came across a small black wiggling thing on the ground.....then it rolled over to reveal it had bright fluroscent orange bands - a baby poisonous coral snake! very rare to see but generally when you see bright colours - stay away!. Also when I was working in the Organic Garden, we were planting new beans and cutting down some purple bananas.....little did I know that the bunch I was carrying was the home of a tarantula! but I got over it by munching on some sugar cane, its yummy...grows all around, just strip it away and suck...

The Organic Garden

The Organic Garden

You wanna know something? read on......

As the reserve is so big at 2,200 hectares you can do a self guided tour through the rainforest with a book. I decided to go it alone armed with a machete and the book and headed into the jungle to learn a bit more.

It's amazing walking through the jungle alone, having the rainforest to myself - but I hadn't been this deep in the jungle all by myself before so after I got over the initial feeling of being vulnerable and getting totally freaked out at the same time as the noises are so weird out here. I slowed my pace down and stopped in my path to see tiny little cutter ants carrying leaves one behind the other in a straight line across the forest floor up over tree trunks and off into the forest - very cute

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I absorbed the feeling of being engulfed in what they call the ´primary forest´which is where the canopy is really thick and humid with the reserve being 70% of this and 30% 'secondary forest' where there's more crowding among the shorter plants and the canopy is more open. What really annoyed me though are the amount of spider webs that choose to be right in the path and parallel to the height of your face! egrghhhhh - I was forever pulling them off and they stick really bad aswell as having a thousand things to trip over, stones, bumps and tree roots ha!

For a millenium the South American Indigenous people found in the forest shelter, food and medicine provisions for their survival and their spirtual life. The Spirit of the Forest is very deep and rich where the indigenous people believe trees and animals have souls and their spirits can take on human forms. They prefoundly respect the forest and its inhabitants, asking permission from the spirits of the forest to extract something, to cut a tree or hunt. In addition, they follow specific rituals when collecting medicinal plants and their stories of the forest spirits have been passed down by generations by word of mouth

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The trees are what I find amazing in the rainforest.....there's 246 species of trees in one hectare! many of them in the Amazon have roots which are visible above the soil, supporting the trees to allow them grow really tall without having deep roots penetrating the earth...hence why they blow over easily in storms. But it also allows them to lean towards the sunlight when their roots die to catch any sunlight penetrating through the canopy. Clever hey! There's two types....

Stilt Roots which are found in palms and used to build rustic lodges or parquet floors

Stilt Roots which are found in palms and used to build rustic lodges or parquet floors

Buttress Roots are solid, flat and vertical where native people would strike them to communicate

Buttress Roots are solid, flat and vertical where native people would strike them to communicate

I came across these MAHOOOSIVE Trees which are like the tallest, thickest trees in the rainforest called 'Camatuhua' trees in Quichua- their fruit drops off and are taken by animals and rodents who eat them and then bury some of them do that they regrow in other parts of the forest - kinda sweet helping eachother out. Vines grow on top of the trees to obtain the light they need - they are awesome though!!!!!

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There are some really obscure plants out there - the really large leaves are shaped with a point on thr tip to steer water. My favourite are the 'Labios de mujer' ´hot lips´they are bright red flowers in the shape of huge puckered lips on leaves - really cool. There's also Cacao trees which are the raw chocolate where Aztecs considered it a sacred plant and used it's seeds for money - chocolate for money mmmmmmmmm

Labios de mujer "hot lips"

Labios de mujer "hot lips"


Cacao

Cacao

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Y'know rainforests have tea coloured streams that run through the jungle which is from the leaf protein which leach into the water from the decompsing litter surrounding it mmmmmm. A smart move I made was to not bring a torch so I had to find my way through the forest before the sunset because when its the dead of night - it is so dark, you cannot see your own hand in front of your face. It's super thrilling

Restoring my zen in the tranquility of the forest, I could hear the soft buzzing of wings and there was a hummingbird right in front of me.....dead cute, they're attracted by the bright colours of the plants. They are so mesmerising and only stick around for seconds....so pumas and jaguars next time..... BUT, one night I was going to brush my teeth and I noticed something jump as I was brushing and saw it was one of those teeny weeney green tree frogs that you never ever see - so I was running back through the forest to get my camera with the toothpaste still burning my mouth - you NEVER get to see those little dudes, I was lucky.

Ok lesson over.....leaving you here in the jungle.....hasta luego!

Sal.

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Posted by SalBolton82 14:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rainforest rivers wildlife plants south america amazon medicine ecuador tena Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Ten

PART TEN: LADY OINKSALOT AND THE CAVES OF JUMANDY

Buenas Dias! (Good day)

I've been one month in the Amazon and I feel sometimes the symptons of 'Jungle Fever' coming over me.....oooo sounds crazy doesn't it? most night's I am having the same reoccuring dream..... where I'm waking up on the forest floor, barefoot and surrounded by darkness.....or maybe its these malaria pills I'm taking......either way it wakes me up to relief of still being inside my mosquito net and in the cabana. It's a right party out there in the rainforest in the night.

But things for me have got more exciting and made me far happier out here keeping me busy.....I bought a pig!

It was suggested we have a piglet at the station to eat our left over food in the compost, so me and Sergio headed into Tena in search of a ´Chanchita´. We showed up at Tena Market asking the locals where we could buy one, but recieved no positive response except for the shake of the head and ´no´ pointing us in the direction for ´Senor Busca´or ´Senor Martinez´somewhere else in town - we even drove around stopping to ask a women grilling pork on the roadside! (we were looking for a live pig by the way and it was sure she certaintly didn't have one!) Our search continued out of Tena prompted by various directions from people on the street out into some rural areas looking out for signs for ´Chancho´but every farm we came across, the farmers would just grunt (funny enough like pigs) and mutter they had no piglets. We tried one last time asking this lady outside her house on the roadside leading into Tena and success! She told us she knew ´Senor Rodriguez´ who bred most animals including piglets! only thing was though it was in the town of Contundo, a 45 minute drive out of town and Sergios petrol was very low, so I offered to pay for his petrol for a wallet breaking $5! haha. The game was afoot!

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We drove towards Contundo stopping at the petrol station of course and admired the splendid views of the surrounding rainforest. Upon reaching Contundo, there was a mass of school children blocking the road and market stalls spilling out onto the streets, so Sergio made good use of his horn stopping to ask passersby about the whereabouts of ´Senor Rodriguez´. following the directions of fingers pointing off into the distance. After passing a GIGANTIC rock with two children sitting on top of it, we came to a house where we were greeted by two very loud dogs who came running towards us - a lady followed them out and Sergio asked for Senor Rodriguez. She said he was not home but she was Senora Rodriguez and yes she had some piglets ´round back´. Yes!!!We were shown the pigs pen which was kind of inbetween the cows who were in quite small conditions with bulging eyes and tongues sticking out, groaning loudly and the place smelling of dampened straw and manure. Sergio wanted to get two pigs but Senora would only let us have one for $50, so I picked the girl piglet with black spots and Senora plucked her up by her back legs which freaked the piglet out as she stuffed her in a grain sack and handed her to me. I felt really sorry for it as it was so scared and was making so much noise!! wriggling around the bag. I handed Senora Rodriguez my $50 notes and quickly got her in the car as she squirmed and shrieked (I would have been scared too if they had just happened to me) and started to drive off with the piglet at my feet. We had to stop twice as she was so naughty and ended up biting her way through the sack and was jumping about the car while i´m trying to think of the Spanish words to yell to Sergio for help! it was soo funny, but I thought I had chosen a real troublesome piglet. After two attempts to keep her still, it resulted in me having to lock her between my knees and hold her down with both hands! (she´s proven to be one strong little piglet) where she eventually fell asleep!. Once we arrived back at the reserve, it took three of us to hold her while we took her to the ´pig pen area´ right at the bottom of the station, nearly knocking us off the bridge and into the river in the process as she was struggling so much. When you first get a pig - its so stressful!

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We put her temporarily in the chicken pen so we could fix the door of the cement pig house - when we came back for her later she had escaped! I was convinced she was dead and wouldn´t survive a night in the rainforest......but the next morning.......the kitchen ladies had spotted her in the kitchen having smelt the food and chased her back to the pen - I couldn´t believe she was alive! for a young piglet she´s really tough, so tough infact that even when we put her in the CEMENT pig pen she found a way to escape again! that time I had doubted we would ever see her again, but the next morning I had a speck of hope and went to the area in the reserve where we keep her and low and behold she was sleeping in a bowl in the chicken pen! she came back! Well now we have heightened security (literally we made a wall) so she can´t jump out. I´ve named her Lady Oinksalot as Sergio is a real fan of Lady Gaga she´s a lady and is a real talker. She´s really good now, I adore her. I feed her food scraps and fetch her clean water from the river everyday. She´s really sociable so I go and play with her when I´m not working - she´s like a puppy, she doesn´t leave your side and runs with you nearly tripping me over half the time. She´s become really obedient, but she makes ALOT of noise when she sees you and jumps up, she hates it when you leave her - pigs are sociable creatures so don't cope very well on their own, so I try and spend as much time with her. I´m really sad I can´t take her with me - she´s a cutie!

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Last weekend we ventured to 'The Caves of Jumandy' in the Oriente Region, and it was quite an adventure getting there. First we hitchiked from the station to Tena in a pick up truck that was being pulled along by a truck with a piece of rope with a guy sitting in the pickup merely steering it. Seeing as there were no more vehicles passing by, we had to run after the pickup and help eachother get into the back as it was being pulled along by the truck ahead which was pretty good fun. However, three times the rope broke off and we had to get off and push the pickup towards the truck that had driven off! ha!
The only concern we had was when we were going up a steep hill and praying the rope wouldn´t break coz we would have rolled straight back down the hill - ahh the danger... we didn´t even make it into Tena as the rope broke again (fortunetly on the flat road phew!) so we paid $1 to a taxi driver who happened to pass to take us into Tena. From there, I had to step over a homeless dog who really was just skin and bones with people nudging it to see if it was still alive. Getting a seat on the right bus, which always have a character of their own, I had to step over another dog who´s nose was poking out of a grain sack on the floor - kind of an odd way to transport a dog. Anyway, once we were about to leave, an older man got on with a shoulder bag and started shouting in Spanish which was inaudible, then he put on a headset and turned on a speaker to talk which was still just as inaudible and got out diagrams of eyes and started pointing to his own eyes, mimicking some sort of eye disorder- really funny to watch but he failed to get our custom.

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When we reached ´Cuevas de Jumandy´ lying in the heart of Cotundo and about 4km north of Archidona, we paid a cool dude named Ramon to take us down into the caves for a couple of hours. We all needed to take headtorches as we descended deeper into the caves passing visitors coming out of the caves covered in mud - yes!. The caves are very impressive- they were formed by volcanic activity and named after 'Jumandy', an Amazonian hero. Today, shaman rituals are still active in the caves and are home to really odd rock formations, huge staglamites, minerals and crystals, quite a few things to bang your head on. The caves are also home to crab spiders and small coves you can explore - we had to crawl on our fronts into these small caves with Ramon and when he shon his light to the ceiling......it revealed an army of false vampire bats! of course the bats went crazy and attempted to shoot of the cave in a panicked flurry one proper whacking me and rickashading off the side of my face! ahhh (good thing they were just false vampire bats ay?) . The caves were awesome though, and huge, having to wade through waist deep water, but my knees took quite a knocking. The coolest thing was seeing an underground waterfall. Ramon pointed to a part of the plunge pool, held his breath, jumped in and disappeared! thinking he was going to shoot out from elsewhere in the cave, we were looking around until he resurfaced out the same spot and scared the living daylights out of us! haha

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The adventures didn´t stop there as we took a bus ride the next day to the ´Cascadas de la Umbri´some reknowned waterfalls in the Oriente Region. They told us a hike to the big waterfall would take 30 minutes but never trust that! we had to pass a natutal waterslide which was so slippery, I was halfway sliding in before I had to be helped up - that would have sent me halfway down the springs! After much sludging and sliding in the mud, we reached this amazing waterfall - one of the boys flip flops broke so he had to do the jungle trekking bare foot oh yeah! but jumping into the plunge pool and actually experiencing being under a waterfall is amazing. The waters so strong it feels like your´re being thumped repeatingly, but its in a real theraputic way - seize it if you ever get the chance....

Cascadas de la Umbri

Cascadas de la Umbri

We left just before the sunset and hadn´t thought of a way to get home - so we had to walk the way back to Tena hoping we could hitchike a ride.....we didn´t. Noone wanted to pick us up so we walked for a good hour through the forest and little indigenous communites who would call out ´Buenas Tardes!´ they´re really friendly out here in the forest. Dogs were coming up to us, snapping at us - children played in the road and stared at us curiously, while some families sat on the street side with a television set and looking up to say ´Buenas Noches´. and probably wandering what a bunch of gringos were doing walking around at dusk. Fortunetly as the light was about to die (and it is pitch black in the forest) and none of us had torches, a bus pulled up behind us allowing us to sit on the floor for a well earned rest back in town.......guardian angel there again.

Ok thats all for now, onto the next adventure! It' now creeping into the Christmas season here so kinda weird seeing Christmas trees in the windows with this humidity of a climate - but tis the season!

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 07:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged animals rainforest caves plants south waterfall america amazon pig ecuador tena cotundo Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Eleven

PART ELEVEN: THE 27 CLUB, CHRISTMAS SCHOOL SPIRIT AND THE FORCES OF NATURE

Hola - well I turned 27! who would have thought but you´re only as old as you feel right? and of course age is just a number. Well here´s more in the day of my life in the Amazon.....

I started the week off by going to one of the schools in the Rainforest where some of the volunteers who teach English go most mornings of the week, but of course their Spanish is very good so I tagged along to see. We had to take a 5 minute bus ride to the 'Monte Alegre School' which was basically two small green buildings which were the classrooms and a patch of land outside where some of the children were playing football.

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What amazed me, despite the fact they got excited to see that there were new visitors, they were getting into the classroom through the wired windows and the teacher was helping them! The classroon itself is pretty sweet. It seems like only half of the children participate in the class - they kind of just split the classroom in two and pull their desks up to the whiteboard thats leant against the wall. Its quite funny actually sitting back and watching as it seemed near impossible to teach teach - they just didn´t seem that interested. The teacher in the classroom was busy teaching the other class by drawing cartoons on the board, but there seemed to be no order at all. The kids were running around the classroom chasing eachother and some even walking out! But some kids were good - getting up to write the english answer on the white board, but by the way I saw it, there was just hardly any effort from them to listen.

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Then one of the volunteers teaching got out his guitar and started to strum to the rhythum for the 'ABC song' which made things pretty fun for them and for me to sing along to. It even got to a point of giving up with teaching and they started to sing ´We Wish You A Merry Christmas´ and the ´Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes´Song! but Christmas time is pretty weird here seeing Christmas Trees in the windows and lights when its sweltering hot. After the class was done, the children went outside to play football again and we made our way onto the main road to sit on the bridge to hitchhike back to the reserve. I looked around the forest and noticed a large patch of land had been cleared with new trees sprouting out, even though one day it would be replenished with fully grown trees, the sight of the barron land sure looked ugly.....and many areas of the Amazon look like this....the downer of clearing the forest so much is apart from loosing the biodiversity abundant in the rainforest, we encourage contributing factors of global warming by destroying the earth's largest land base storage of CO2 by cutting down the trees

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Later on the the reserve - I decided to go up the bird tower again with two new volunteers. The sun was blazing as we set off trekking into the reserve to find the tower buckled up with harnesses. The further you go in, the thicker the canopy becomes, so you´re nearly oblivious to how the weather is looking. As I buckled myself on to the tower which is actually only wide enough to fit both my hands on (really it is narrow), I ascended to about 25 metres above the canopy and started to feel a strong gust of wind with the tree branches swaying around me.

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I looked down at the boys slowly following and called down to them warning it was getting very blustery. I reached the observation deck first now at 30 metres above the canopy and looked across the Amazon to see nothing but pure sunshine and blue skies to my left and foreboding black and grey skies to my right - we had missed the clear spell as the boys came up to join me and there was a crack of thunder and lightning and the black clouds split open and we could see the rain pouring down on the forest in the distance as they slowly creeped towards us.

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The Amazonian storm approaching......

Now the wind was really picking up as the storm was growing closer to us balancing 30 metres above the canopy! We decided it wasn´t the best idea to stick around, so the boys started to hastily start their descent and then I followed. I took one last look out and the blackness was on top of us and darkness fell over the Amazon as the raindrops started to trickle over me. Getting myself back on the ladder - it was swaying from the wind that was getting more and more aggressive and the rain poured harder soaking me as I was trying to keep my grip on the ladder with one hand and changing the karibeener on the harness so I could go lower. The trees were now really rocking about and their roots only go down a metre so they do tend to blow over in storms. It was extreme but what a thrill! I finally made it down in the storm and we had to run through the forest as the thunder roared and lightning cracked woah!! Lets just say we got our full supply of water that day!.......

Speaking of water - I regularly go and bathe in the Rio Napo after work - it´s my most favourite thing to do here in the Rainforest, to and play in the water. The boys fancied putting some life jackets on and actually swimming into the heart of the River and be carried down. The water looked rapid as I watched them swim into the middle and could see their heads bobbing up as I called after them as a joke ´Watch out for Anacondas!´ and carried on bathing. When I looked up again, they had disappeared but didn´t think anything of it. When I got out the river, I could see the bend further down and noticed three figures walking on the shore which I was a bit confused about as it hadn´t seemed very far - It had turned out they had disappeared because they had been swept to the wrong side of the river and sucked into a whirlpool! they said if they didn´t have their life jackets they probably may have drowned - yikes. I later floated a bit down the river but not to that extreme - scary forces in the Amazon.... and look what we found joining us in cleaning our teeth...hello Mr Scorpion....

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Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 11:19 Archived in Ecuador Tagged animals rainforest plants south america amazon ecuador tena medicines Comments (0)

Letters From The Amazon - Part Twelve

PART TWELVE: JOURNEY TO MISHUALLI

Hola! Really long blog this one is gonna be as I've had quite an adventure recently....

Well I'm not your average English girl, quite an adventurous girl actually if you've not come to that conclusion yet from following the last parts of this blog. Anyway, I'm one to tire of routine and sameness and having been at the reserve for over a month, really wanted to explore the Amazon further, so I decided to pack my bag and go it alone.......well sort of.

Giving a call to a jungle lodge in a nearby town called Misahualli for the weekend. Their office was in Quito, so I spoke to this guy called Luis who told me I could join a group and be taken deeper into the forest and have an english translator - yes!
So.....having made arrangements, I got up early to catch a 6:45am bus outside the reserve, and sods law awoke to the foreboding sounds of horrendous crashing and rumbling on the roof of my cabaña and realised I had to get up and head into the jungle in a thunder storm. As I waited on the main road getting soaked, Francisco, an old man who is the handyman at the reserve, came out dressed in a white poncho and mumbled to me asking where I was going to. I told him I was heading to Misahualli down river and he was thrilled to tell me his house was there and that I could come with him (good news for someone not entirely sure where they were going). The bus came soaring down the road screeching to a halt past us and then reversing back to pick us up, very funny. The bus in the early morning was packed and I had to wedge myself between people while Francisco sat on the step. A few moments later, he yelled for me to get off the bus and stepped out onto the dirt track with a corroded sign saying ´Beinvenidos a Puerto Misahualli´.

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The dirt track led into the forest which was smouldering with the 7am clouds as we started to trudge through the rain down the path greeting morning passerbys. The rain carried on until we came to a huge bridge across the Rio Napo leading into the small town of Misahualli. Francisco knew of the hotel 'Él Albergue Español' where my port of call was and walked me up a small hill to the hotel where we were met by this young girl who was slightly confused why I was there. It turned out, there was no group at the lodge and that her husband Pier - the english translator was sick.....great

So I really was taking a solo adventure two hours up river on a canoe which I had to wait an hour for. I hung around Mishaualli playing with the hotel dogs until I was called down to the bank. She had arranged for a canoe to take me to the lodge an hour and a half away up river and I helped push the canoe out into the river after some ´technical problem´with the motor and off down river we went away from the Port of Mishualli. I sat on the side of the canoe, leaning over and sticking my hand into the water, spraying it up and watching the riverside life go by.... men fishing, ladies panning for gold and washing little kids racing canoes. The clouds hovering above the forest canopy in a dream like illusion was spectacular to cruise into as I headed on my solo voyage further into the Amazon.

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After a couple of hours, my driver slowed the canoe down and pulled up to the bankside where a guy was standing waving. He got on board and introduced himself as Ramon (another Ramon) and was my tour guide for the weekend! however....Ramon spoke no english - oh the fun to come! (I thought to myself this would be good for me, character building, no english speaking in the middle of the jungle all weekend). A short river ride further up, we pulled up to the bankside again to some steps, which you wouldn´t even have noticed if Ramon hasn't have revealed, very secret.
I jumped off the canoe and bounded up the stairs amongst maize fields till I reached this beautiful lodge. The lodge had room for 40 guests and I was the only one staying there! so I had this beautiful lodge all to myself in the calmness of Amazonia. After picking a room, spoilt for choice and dumping my bag. Ramon invited me to lunch in the restaurant where they gave me soooo much to eat! it was like three full courses. Around the lodge, birds were lingering - two green parrots and this huge Scarlet MaCaw named Miguel who tried to bite my boots, not the most friendliest of parrots - he clambered down his perch and walked off along the restaurant when he was bored with you!..charming......

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After lunch, Ramon took me in the canoe down river where we had to hold on to a table that they were carrying in the canoe. We pulled up to the side of a bank to the ´Jaguar Reserve´where we had to clamber up the mud and into the reserve. Ramon was armed with a machete and we made our way through the vines, bugs and bushes - whenever Ramon saw something of interest, he would stop and try to explain to me what it was and I tried to understand the best I could (this is where I needed that damn English Translator!) but it was quite funny having to use body language and nodding along answering 'Si' ha. I actually felt privaledged in a way that I wasn't tagging along with a big tourist group struggling to hear what Ramon would be saying. Here I was having a very unique experience, having my own private ranger under no stresses or strict schedule or the forest being drowned out by many voices. Despite my lost in translation, Ramon and I had some fun in the forest.

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Further into the reserve, we came across some vines of a 500 year old tree - it was the biggest tree I had ever seen in my life! Ramon gestured that I should swing on the vines but I had to hold on tight - I jumped (literally) at the chance and as I swung out like Tarzan the vines propelling me away and I looked down to realise I had swung out over a ravine!! ahhhhhhh!!!!! my grip started to slip slightly but fortunetely I swung back into the forest towards Ramon and we both started to climbing the roots of this mother of a tree - seriously they were GIGANTIC - but good fun. New leader in my tree climbing conquests.

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Blending in with the wildlife...

After exploring more of the forest, discovering animal traps, lots of fungi and medicinal plants of the Amazon, we took the canoe further down the river to visit the indigenous family and a shaman. We pulled up to the pebbled shore where a young girl no older than about 12 or 13 was laying out clothes to dry in the hot sun. She seemed shy and walked ahead of us through the cocoa and corn fields as we shook hands with ladies coming through them. At the end of the path, we came to a clearing with a wooden house one storey high with clothes hung everywhere with chickens, puppies and kittens running around aswell as excited kids rushing to greet Ramon and I. Not being able to understand half of what was being said - I held a kitten and looked around their basic but simple home as we sheltered from the rainstorm that came shortly afterwards

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We were then gestured to come upstairs into the house where a lady was lying on the floorboards moaning and asked if she was sick. I observed that a huge fireplace centred the house and the young girl we saw earlier sat with a baby wrapped around her wondering if it was actually hers. A much older, shorter, fatter man who looked in his 80´s was the head of the house and his son told me he was the shaman of the community and asked me if I wanted to be cleansed by him in a ritual. I agreed and was told all bad spirits and enegy would be exorcised from me and then positive energy put in me. What a once in a lifetime oppurtunity!

The room was dark and he sat me down on a stool, closing my eyes - he started to softly sing and whistle to me shaking 'Shu Panga' leaves (leaves that are noisy) over my head and draping them over me. Amazonian Shamans use these in religous ceremonies to ritually remove bad spirits from a person. I know it sounds weird but I felt like I was being lifted off the ground and things being sucked out of me. After a short while, the Shaman took my head and put his lips to it and started blowing for 10 breaths. It was a pretty unique experience - when I opened my eyes, it was really strange - I never felt better! Before leaving, I attempted to ask questions and managed to find out there were about 10 people in one house which was probably the size of my living and dining room at home - pretty close family! but not much privacy, y'know to do all your 'private stuff' I suppose they were spoilt for space with the countless acres of virgin forest they had surrounding them for a toilet anyhow! The son of the Shaman asked if I wanted to try some medicinal concoctions of a plant that helps stomach aches - I took a sip and wahooooohhh!!! what a stopper!! extremely strong!

I thanked the family and the shaman for his work and we headed back to the shore but not before trying some panning for gold! what most women are busy doing on the river bank. We collected some dirt and a load of small rocks in a large wooden disc and carried it to the river, the process is to add water and appear to swish it around emptying the rocks until you get the dirt - we then tipped the dish with the dirt left and looking closely, we saw we had caught some grains of gold! really cool!. But such a long process that these people do everyday here, but it is gold after all..... We rode back to the lodge down the river with the sunsetting over the River and Amazon and attempted to push the table on the canoe up the stairs! very bizarre

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After my weekend was up, I took the canoe back down the Rio Napo taking in the scenery - I ported back in Misahualli and crossed over the bridge back to the dirt track which was bone dry from the heat of the sun. Armed with my backpack and rubber boots, I trudged down the dirt track aligned with lushious greenery you will ever see and stopped to look at birds and monkey´s high in the tree tops. I was then startled by a jogger passing me with ´Buenas Tardes Señorita!´and carried on running. I was passed many times by cars who wouldn´t give me a ride but thought it would be funny to wave at me speeding away. Reaching the end of the dirt track onto the main road, a house was opposite with 4 dogs who came charging towards me barking angrily ahhhhhh!!!! now I love dogs but wasn´t so keen to hang around and play so I decided to walk back from Misahualli which I calculated would be about an hour - it was great! like a lone walker finding their way home. Pick ups would stop to give me a ride but I decided I was enjoying my walk back too much - you miss so much when you´re speeding by in a car. Along my journey, I encountered a few people and children bidding ´Buenas Tardes´and asking where I was going and replying 'Jatun Sacha' regardless whether or not they knew where it was, but they smiled and nodded anyhow. I walked past many homes that were the same wooden shacks plastered with posters of local political figures holding their thumbs up saying ´Vote for Me!´ It was nice to see a vote for Lisa too for the women (I´d vote for Lisa) - women are second best in South America unfortunetely. Eventually, I reached the school 'Chichaca Rumi' where we planted the Ishpingo Trees so I had a little look to see how they were doing. Actually, a couple of the kids who I recognised from the school were playing marbles in the road and then running out the way when the bus came (They came up asking my name even though they´d seen me before and of course laughing at the response of Sal hehe I thought they´d remember!)

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I noticed passing a sign saying ´Bienvendas Kamakmake´ which unless you were told was an animal centre where the animals just roam around you never would have known what it was. I reached the 'Centro Conservacion Plantas de Amazonica' I knew I was close to Jatun Sacha passing the dead horse with its totally decayed skelton with a few black vultures flying out as I approached. The sun was now setting over the canopy and the clouds were like pink smears across the sky - really pretty! and I even saw some parrots squaking and little black monkeys jabbering in a tree - cute!. The birds nests are really weird here they look like shigra bags hanging from trees.......I did make it back to the reserve by dark, just as well - I had no torch ha! but so pleased with myself that I took the plunge and did this on my own and I truly did end up coping on my own and having an unforgettable experience- what a ride!

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Well the next day, we took the 30 minute walk back to Kamakmake - it was a real plush reserve and the first thing I saw was this cute little Amazon Pig running along with some children who I recognised again from the school dressed in typical Amazonian attire and showing us this cute little monkey that clambered on one of the boys shoulder and held on tight. Totally up for having a monkey on my shoulder, we managed to get him to clamber on me...then he wouldn´t let go. He was tightly clinging on and then even had the decency to pee on me!. Having the novelty of ha monkey on you slowly wearing off. One of the boys got a stick in an attempt to coax him off me which worked but then he clambered back on him again - it was so funny!!! Now that´s monkey business for ya.......

Signing off here at Jatun Sacha

Adios!

Sal.

Posted by SalBolton82 08:48 Archived in Ecuador Tagged trees animals rivers wildlife plants south america amazon ecuador tena medicines Comments (0)

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